The highly acclaimed album Cairn was released by Fergus McCreadie in the January of 2021 and was noted for its strong Scottish folk influences. Forest Floor is the follow-up album and the characteristics, traits and strength of writing that made its predecessor stand out are still very much in place but with the added maturity that comes with a composer who believes in what they write and perform.
‘Law Hill’ is a vibrant opening number to this eight-track album. The piano playing of Fergus McCreadie combine with rippling drum patterns from Stephen Henderson to drive this tune forward. There are occasional slower breaks, but these just allow time for the players and listeners to catch their breath before next burst of energy. The left hand of Fergus plays some terrific repeating motifs while his right hand adds tonal colour to create a very enjoyable depth to the piece.
‘The Unfurrowed Field’ is more lyrical in style when compared to the opening number and the listener gets the opportunity to hear how good a bass player David Bowden is. The drumming of Stephen Henderson is sympathetic to the feel of this bucolic tune and that really is the strength of this number: it sounds right and, more importantly, feels right. There is a spacious, gentle start to ‘Morning Moon’ on the piano, with well-placed interjections of sound from bass and drums. This is a wonderfully balanced tune that reflects its title well and eases the listener through its six minutes of reflection.
‘Landslide’ brings the energy levels back up with the left hand of Fergus providing the pulse of the tune while his right hand, and the Henderson’s drumming, play dynamic patterns over the constant rhythmic beat. This takes us on to the album’s title track, ‘Forest Floor’, which is about representing the effect that changing seasons produce on the forest floor. This is another composition that is tranquil in delivery but not without its moments of controlled strength and Fergus’ ability to move between the two states is delightfully demonstrated on this track.
‘The Ridge’ comes in at a little over ten minutes in length, which gives the band time to develop the tune’s central theme. David Bowden gets another opportunity to step forward with his double bass and plays some terrific lines with subtle accompaniment from McCreadie and Henderson. As the volume and intensity of tune increases the piano comes to the fore and just as you adapt to that change the potency of the playing subsides in readiness to grow again. The quality of Fergus McCreadie’s writing really shines through on this number but all that would be lost if the trio did not have the ability to match their playing to the writing, which, of course, they do – standout album track for me.
With the title ‘White Water’ one would expect this to be a fast-paced number but even in nature white water grows and develops from something quite still and that is how this tune works. It is another superb piece of writing and the piano of McCreadie conveys the propulsive energy of fast- moving water very well. Forest Floor closes with ‘The Glade’, a gentle, lyrical piece led from the piano with touches of bass from Bowden and washes of cymbal from Henderson. This is a simple sounding number that is played with such feeling that it stayed with me long after the CD had finished spinning.
Cairn was the album that brought Ferus McCreadie’s music into the spotlight, Forest Floor is the album that will keep him there. There’s a greater visceral energy apparent in this album: Cairn was lyrical, Forest Floor steps it up a gear in conviction whilst remaining balanced with its moments of serenity. It is this composure that makes Fergus’ music so powerful. His ability to transition from a full flowing, radiant pulse-wash of sound to a tranquil, early morning stillness in a moment is simply breathtaking. This album should appear in many a reviewer’s top ten list at the end of the year and deservedly so.
The album, on the Edition Records label, is available from Bandcamp from Friday, 8th April, 2022.
Musicians: Fergus McCreadie – piano; David Bowden – double bass; Stephen Henderson – drums.
Tracklist: 1. Law Hill. 2. The Unfurrowed Field. 3. Morning Moon. 4. Landslide. 5. Forest Floor. 6. The Ridge. 7. White Water. 8. Glade